News, notes, quotes and observations following Thursday’s media availablity sessions, practice and post-practice press briefing with coach Tom Cable:
— No surprise the Raiders will string out the official status of Michael Bush until Sunday.
Bush didn’t practice Thursday, but Cable said he might get in some work Friday morning before the team departs for Nashville and that he will be a “game time decision.”
At game time, Bush it will have been one day shy of two weeks since Bush had surgery to put screws in his left thumb.
— Others who didn’t practice were wide receiver Chaz Schilens (knee), cornerback Walter McFadden (hamstring) and linebacker Travis Goethel (lower back). Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (elbow) was limited.
— Left guard Robert Gallery, talking about the improvements in the Raiders offense, “We have new pieces around us and a quarterback that knows the system and gets rid of the ball. There is a new lease on this offense. We’re the same guys and if sacks are given up, it’s on us. But we have to go out and be good.”
True enough. If Campbell is sacked six times, they won’t have JaMarcus Russell to kick around anymore.
— Defensive coordinator John Marshall and his observations on rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain: “I think he’s right there with Lofa Tatupu at this point. Lofa came in, just a tremendous aptitude for football. He understood football, and so does Rolando.
“Obviously his head coach at Alabama spent time with him and has schooled him real well. He understands concepts, he understands strengths and weaknesses, and of course, being big and fast, that helps. So he’s made a great transition.”
— Marshall on rookie defensive end Lamarr Houston: “On offense sometimes, not all the time, they’ll hold and do some things to upset him. And he’ll let ’em know that’s not happening with this guy . . . yesterday he beat somebody in pass rush, I won’t say who, and he was just laughing like crazy.
“The next time, the offensive lineman was upset, he kind of halfway beat him again, and so the lineman threw him down. Well, (Houston) gets up, he’s laughing, and he says, `That’s what happens when you get beat, you get mad.’ ”
— Marshall is pleased about the versatility of his unit, noting that cornerback Jeremy Ware can play safety, Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch can line up at slot corner, that his defensive linemen can play both inside and outside and that his linebackers can function as pass rushers.
Which brings up the question as to whether the Raiders can be so versatile they lose sight of exactly what they do best.
“No, no, we make sure we’ve got go home to mama defenses,” Marshall said. “You know how mama makes you feel? She cooks for you, washes your clothes, it’s security in that mama’s home? Well, we’ve got things in mama’s home.”
— Marshall on moving cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to different areas of the defense: “Well, we put him inside last year, and brought him (on blitzes) , and he’ll be moving around, yeah, we’ll utilize him.”
— Linebacker Thomas Howard, speculated as trade bait and as a candidate to be released after losing his starting job, survived as a core special teams player and a player that defensive coordinator John Marshall said would play certain defensive packages including a “big nickel.”
Within the last year, Howard not only lost his starting job, but a chance at unrestricted free agency when the NFLPA and owners didn’t reach a collective bargaining agreement. During the NFL draft, one of Howard’s closest friends, Kirk Morrison, was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars after Oakland McClain.
Instead of waiting for the ax to fall, Howard carved out a niche for himself.
Special teams coordinator John Fassel said he singled out Howard during a unit meeting as a positive example.
“I said, ‘You could consider your predicament a demotion or an opportunity,’ ” Fassel said. “And his effort and his willingness to play on special teams and his performance to me has been outstanding.
“I couldn’t be happier with his willingness to contribute and be a part of that special teams because some people would take it as, ‘I used to be a starter and now I’m on special teams,’ but his attitude’s been great about it, so that’s been fun.”
Listening to Cable, it’s clear Howard was being watched very closely as to how he was handling the changes.
“That’s kind of the heartbeat of your team, issues like that,” Cable said. “That’s what makes your chemistry good or bad. He looked at as an opportunity, a different opportunity than he was used to, but I think it’s also kind of rekindled the fire in him.”
— Fassel on kickoff and punt returner Yamon Figurs: “I was with him his rookie season in Baltimore. He scored three times. (actually twice on returns). He’s a light, fast guy, and if he gets a crease then he’s somebody that has the speed that can score for you. So that’s exciting. I think that’s what he can bring for us as a dual punt returner and kickoff returner. And then he’s got his things he’s got to work on, but to me as a cover team, you’ve got to be a little bit concerned about his ability because of the speed.”
— Cable confirmed the Raiders worked out Bobby McCray, former defensive end for the Saints.
“We’ve had a number of guys in,” Cable said “(It’s) just to know who the player is and be familiar with it if it was necessary down the road.”